If It Were Only As Simple As A Walk On The Beach... February 27, 2015

If It Were Only As Simple As A Walk On The Beach...

By Brian Whitlark, Agronomist
June 4, 2008

While traveling through the Southwest Region, many superintendents comment on their summer project list. On the top of that list for many courses this summer is bunker sand replacement. Complaints about bunker sand from the golfing public is in the top two comments offered for discussion at Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visits (the other is green speed).

You have all heard numerous adjectives describing bunkers; too soft, too hard, too wet, too dry, and the list goes on. The brief guidelines below offer suggestions for adding a degree of objectivity to bunker sand selection and maintenance.

  • Once the old sand is removed, use this opportunity to audit the integrity of the bunker drainage system.
  • Use either a fabric or spray-in liner to prevent erosion and bunker sand contamination
  • Bunker sand selection is extremely important and is probably the most controversial aspect of bunker renovation.
    • Send prospective bunker sand to a certified soil testing lab. A web link is provided below referencing a list of accredited laboratories.
    • Look for the following sand characteristics on your bunker sand evaluation*:
          1. Particle size
          2. Particle shape and Penetrometer value
          3. Crusting potential
          4. Chemical reaction (pH) and hardness
          5. Infiltration rate
          6. Color (by Munsell color chart)

    * The following article is offered as a reference for interpreting tests on sand materials for bunkers: How To Select The Best Sand For Your Bunkers, J. Moore, USGA Green Section Record , January/February, 1998.


      • Select several bunker sands that have been tested and fall within the guidelines described in the reference listed above and divide them into a "trial bunker" on the practice facility. This provides an opportunity for members and guests to "try out" the sands.
      • Be sure to communicate with members that it will take up to six (6) months for the sand to properly settle.
      • Finally, maintaining consistent bunkers is impossible - sand "consistency" is affected by many factors, including sunlight, sun-angle, shade, irrigation, bunker design, bunker depth and more; all of which the golf course superintendent is unable to control.
      • All you can do is provide quality sand, maintain consistent depths of 4-6in on the base, 2-3in of compacted sand on the faces and rake all the bunkers the same way.

    Good luck this summer, and even if you don't make it over to relax on the beach, I hope your summer projects are successful!

    Source: Brian Whitlark, or 480-668-3368.